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Vote on Health Care Bill Delayed Until after Senate Recess

The votes simply aren't there to get a health care bill through the Senate right now. Recognizing this, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has delayed the vote until after the senators get back from eating hot dogs, kissing babies, and getting an earful from their constituents. Since the bill is going to cause 22 million people who currently have health insurance to lose it, it is hard to imagine vast crowds of people are going to tell their senators to hurry up and pass the new bill, so its prospects probably aren't much better after the recess than they are now. This graph from Bloomberg shows the problem fairly clearly.

Uninsured rate

Fundamentally, the problem is that three moderate senators, Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Dean Heller (NV), want the bill to cover more people. At least two senators, Rand Paul (KY) and Mike Lee (UT), want it to cover fewer people. It is hard to change the bill to do both. If McConnell softens the blow to get Collins, Murkowski, and Heller on board, likely other conservatives will bolt. McConnell can afford to lose only two votes.

McConnell has a bit of wiggle room, though. Under the budget reconciliation rules, the Senate bill must save as much money as the House bill. The current Senate bill saves the government $188 billion more than the House bill over 10 years. This means that McConnell can add $188 billion to the Senate bill and have it still qualify to pass under the budget reconciliation process, which requires only 50 votes plus making President of the Senate Mike Pence actually do something for his $230,700 salary. The $188 billion could be used to buy off some of the senators. For example, if Collins wants more tax credits for poor people, McConnell could offer, say, $30 billion. If Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) wants another $40 billion for dealing with the opioid epidemic, it's a done deal, and so on. But it is far from clear this kind of sausage making will work. In addition, the real purpose of the bill is to eliminate the taxes imposed by the ACA, and if McConnell adds too much new spending to the bill, it may not be possible to eliminate all the taxes, which might cause some of the conservatives to vote "no." Although McConnell has an indoor job with no heavy lifting and a salary of $193,400, it is not a job many people would want right now. (V)

The Shoes Keep Falling

The news broke early on Tuesday afternoon that there would be no vote on the Senate health care bill before the July 4 weekend. And the story just kept developing from there, as the various players scrambled to respond to this development. To start, three more GOP senators found the fortitude to announce that they do not support the current iteration of the bill. They are Shelley Moore Capito, Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Rob Portman (R-OH). The bad news for Mitch McConnell is that Capito and Portman are on the more moderate side of the GOP caucus, while Moran is part of the conservative wing. So, the balancing act just got that much harder.

Meanwhile, on the Medicaid front, GOP supporters of the bill are working hard to promote the message that the Senate bill does not actually cut Medicaid at all, and so that concern is ill-founded. While this statement may be technically correct, it represents spin of the highest order. The Senate's health care bill does increase spending for Medicaid, but at a far slower rate than Obamacare calls for. More specifically, the government will expend $415 billion on the program this year. Over the next 10 years, as things currently stand, that number would grow to $624 billion, in order to keep up with inflation. If the Republican plan becomes law, the total would grow to only $460 billion over the next decade. While it is true that $460 billion is more than $415 million, it's also the case that rate of growth would not be enough to keep up with inflation. The only way to balance that out is to kick people out of the program, which the GOP bill does. So, they are not cutting money, but they are cutting people.

And speaking of messaging, there appears to be a mini-civil war brewing in the GOP on the best way to get to 50 votes. When Dean Heller came out against the bill, the Trump-aligned super PAC America First Policies announced plans to hit him with millions in attack ads. Now, as of Tuesday evening, that plan is on hold, just 12 hours after the first commercials began airing in Nevada. Officially, the reason is that they want to take a "wait and see" approach. However, reports are that McConnell was furious about the ads, calling them "beyond stupid." He insisted, via White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, that America First Policies cease their campaign, warning that the ads were actually alienating other senators as opposed to persuading Heller.

So, the debate over the Senate's health care bill is consuming the Republican Party. Or most of it, at least. There does appear to be one exception: Donald Trump. He did call an emergency meeting with Senate Republicans to discuss the matter on Tuesday, but he does not appear to have done much to move the process forward. Further, in his remarks afterward, he seemed remarkably uninvested in the matter:

This will be great if we get it done. And if we don't get it done, it's just going to be something that we're not going to like. And that's okay, and I understand that very well.

Lest there should be any doubt as to the President's thinking, we all know that Twitter is the window into his soul. And, as CNN's Gregory Krieg points out, The Donald's feed has been remarkably health care free over the course of the last week. So, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was likely right on Monday when he said that Senate Republicans are on their own with this one. (Z)

Five Takeaways from the Senate Health Care Bill

The Hill has compiled a list for the five key takeaways from the Senate health care bill, as follows:

  • The Senate bill is a lot like the House bill, which came under scathing criticism
  • The bill will cause insurance premiums to rise in the 2018 election year, before dropping in 2019
  • The bill will save the government $321 billion—unless Mitch McConnell uses the savings to buy off senators
  • Medicaid will take a huge hit, resulting in a $772 billion cut over 10 years
  • Half of Americans live in states likely to eliminate health benefits, meaning the lower premiums buy less coverage

None of this is good news for a senator trying to explain to his or her constituents next week why this bill should pass. The only real winners are wealthy people whose taxes will go down. To a small extent, young healthy people will see premiums go down, but the reason is that they will get insurance with less coverage. (V)

Bipartisanship Lives: Governors of Both Parties Attack the Senate Health Care Bill

As if Mitch McConnell didn't have enough problems lining up the senators in his caucus to vote for the Senate health care bill, now he has a new problem: governors. A number of governors, including Republican governors, came out yesterday opposing the bill. The leaders of the effort are Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) and Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO). Kasich said the bill "would victimize the poor and mentally ill, and redirect tax money to people who are already very wealthy." He called it "unacceptable." Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) and Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA) signed a joint letter asking the Senate not to vote on the bill. The two are chairman and vice chairman of the nonpartisan National Governors Association, respectively. Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV) as well as several Democratic governors are also trying to block the bill.

When people hear their governor opposing the bill, that is surely going to carry some weight in their thinking, especially with Republicans who hear their Republican governor going after the bill with hammer and tongs. It is increasingly obvious now why Mitch McConnell conceived the bill in secret and then tried to rush it through the Senate with no debate. He knew this was coming and wanted to get it passed before anyone noticed. It didn't work. (V)

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Trump?

Presidents have a certain amount of constitutional or statutory power (e.g., vetoing bills), but a lot of their real power comes from the fact that members of Congress either respect them or fear them (or sometimes both). Franklin Delano Roosevelt was able to accomplish so much because the Democrats had large majorities in the Senate and House and they adored him. Lyndon Johnson knew where all the pressure points were. If a senator was balking at doing what he wanted, all he had to say was: "You know that big Air Force base in your state that employs 10,000 people? Well, the Air Force doesn't really need it." Donald Trump has gotten to the point that he inspires neither respect nor fear. That means that his leverage with Congress is almost nonexistent and rapidly dwindling, to boot. For the most part, Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) are going to be calling the shots from now on, not Trump. On foreign policy, immigration, and trade, Trump still has some power, but on domestic policy, basically, almost none.

This development is most obvious on the health care bill. The House bill was written the way Ryan wanted it. Trump had no input on it. The Senate bill was written by McConnell in secret. Trump most likely wasn't even aware of it until it was released. Trump's greatly reduced power is already becoming obvious when backbenchers in his own party stand up to him in public. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), a 37-year-old who just started his second term in the House, said yesterday: "I handle the Trump administration the same way I handled the Obama administration. When I agree, I work with them. When I oppose, I don't." Any junior Democrat who said that when Lyndon Johnson was president would discover the next day that every military base, VA hospital, and post office in his district was on the list for closure. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has distanced himself from Trump on several issues already. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was asked if he fears Trump. He chuckled and said "No." This is not a good place for a president to be if he wants to get his agenda through Congress.

It is especially bad for Trump because so much of what he wants is not what the Republican leaders in Congress want. He wants "America first;" they want free trade. He wants the Wall; they want lots of immigrants (to hold down wages). He loves Russia; they hate Russia. A president who has ideas his party's leaders don't like and who is neither respected nor feared is not likely to get his way very often. The Guiness Book of Records doesn't have an entry for the "Earliest lame duck" but maybe it soon will. (V)

Time for a Trade War?

Donald Trump desperately wants to utilize his power to impose tariffs on countries that engage in anti-competitive practices. Such a maneuver would project strength, would seem to fulfill his campaign promises to put America first, and, perhaps most importantly, could be done quickly and without the involvement of Congress. At this very moment, the Department of Commerce is putting the finishing touches on a report about steel imports. The report will undoubtedly document shady behavior by the Chinese, and perhaps by Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Canada, and/or the EU, as well. At that point, the President is expected to take action—and, legally speaking, the sky's the limit. Well, actually, if Trump goes too high, the U.S. could be sanctioned by the World Trade Organization, but he's given every indication that he plans to ignore any of their rulings.

Once Trump acts (and, inevitably, tweets about it), it will be a victory for him. At least, in the short term. However, he has not generally shown much concern for the long-term damage his actions might do, and there is plenty of potential here for that. To start with, while American steel producers are giddy at the thought of tariffs of 50% or 100% or even 500%, other industries—particularly auto manufacturing and construction—are horrified, and warn that prices will rise while jobs are also lost. Economists back them up on this. Meanwhile, there is every chance that if the tariffs are too harsh, the affected countries will respond in kind. For example, the U.S. sells soy to China at prices that are dangerously close to running afoul of "dumping" rules. If the Chinese government slaps American soy imports with a hefty tariff, the United States' 300,000 soy-producing farms will feel the pinch. And finally, it's all good and well to ignore the WTO when we don't like their rulings, but then that means they are not available when the shoe is on the other foot. It's the same reason that countries abide by the Geneva Convention; start torturing enemy combatants or executing POWs and the enemy will start doing the same to your forces. All of this is not to say that Trump should not take action, merely that he should resist the temptation to overdo it for dramatic purposes. So, we should probably hope that the Rex Tillersons and the Wilbur Rosses of the world act as a moderating force on their boss as he makes his decision. (Z)

Only Two Major Countries Like Trump Better than Obama

The Pew Research center issued a new report on Monday in which they detailed their findings on Barack Obama's approval rating versus that of Donald Trump in 37 major nations. Obama outpolled The Donald in 35 of the 37, sometimes by staggering margins. For example, 93% of Swedes like #44, while just 10% like #45, a differential of 83 points. The Netherlands and Germany (75-point differential), South Korea (71), France (70), Spain (68), Canada (61), and the UK (57) also favored Obama by large margins. The two nations where the President came out ahead, on the other hand, should not surprise anyone. They were Israel, where Trump outpolled Obama by 7 points (56-49), and—of course—Russia, where the gap was a remarkable 42 points (53-11).

These results are of interest for two reasons. The first is that if the U.S. president is unpopular through most of the world—and he clearly is—that necessarily hurts the nation's standing abroad. The second is the Russia result, which just adds to the pile of evidence that they badly wanted Trump elected and Clinton defeated, at all costs. That said, Vladimir Putin appears to have soured on the President, and pro-Kremlin media are turning critical. So, Trump's numbers in Russia may be about to crater, though they have a ways to go before they are as bad as his numbers in, say, the United States. (Z)

Fake Time Magazine Cover Featuring Trump Hangs in His Golf Resorts

Donald Trump is no doubt proud of the March 1, 2009, cover of Time that is hanging on the wall at some of his golf resorts. After all, his image fills the page. The only problem is that it is completely fake. Time didn't publish an issue on March 1, 2009, and no issue in 2009 had Trump on the cover.

To make it even worse, the forgery wasn't even every good. Even someone with intermediate Photoshop skills can make a Time cover that at least looks like a real one. And those who lack such skills can go to a template-based site like FotoJet, where all you have to do is upload your picture. This one has many errors that give it away quickly. The red border around the edge is too narrow. The white border inside the red one is missing. The secondary headlines are in the wrong place. The magazine does not generally overlay its logo on top of the cover photo. Finally, there are exclamation points after some of the headlines, something Time never uses. Here are the real covers for that week (with an issue date of March 2) and the fake cover:

Real and fake Time covers

When Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about the fake cover, she said: "We couldn't comment on the decor at Trump Gold clubs one way or another." Trump holds Time in high regard and has repeatedly bragged that he holds the record for cover appearances. In reality, he has been on the cover 11 times, a mere fraction of Richard Nixon's 55 appearances there. And don't tell The Donald, but he's also been outpaced by someone else—Hillary Clinton, with 30 appearances. (V)

Manafort Registers as a Foreign Agent

Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has registered as a foreign agent after it became known that he received more than $17 million for lobbying U.S. government officials on behalf of a Ukrainian political party close to Vladimir Putin. When you step back for a moment, the idea that a campaign manager for the Republican presidential candidate has worked for a foreign pro-Russian political party is nothing short of astounding. Manafort is the second close Trump aide who worked for foreign interests and kept it secret. Former NSA Michael Flynn worked for the Turkish government and actually achieved some of its policy goals.

Manafort's problem could soon become Trump's problem. Special counsel Robert Mueller no doubt is an avid consumer of news. Why wouldn't he be? The New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, and Axios, among others, have hundreds of reporters digging up information he can use. In particular, failing to register as a foreign agent is a felony. If Mueller wants to turn the screws on Manafort (and Flynn), he can indict them, try to get them convicted (which should be easy since both of them have essentially admitted guilt by registering long after they did the lobbying), and then try to flip them. Of course, Trump could offer them pardons in return for their silence, but that would cause him political problems, even if they took the deal. Another person to watch in this context is Carter Page, who also had extensive dealings with the Russians. If even one of them can be flipped, it could be bad news for Trump. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun27 CBO: 22 Million People Will Lose Insurance under the Senate Bill
Jun27 Senate Leadership Revises the Health-Care Bill
Jun27 Graham to Colleagues: Trump Won't Have Your Back
Jun27 Pelosi: 'Hundreds of Thousands' Will Die if Health Care Bill Becomes Law
Jun27 Supreme Court Will Take the Muslim Travel Ban Case in October (Unless it Doesn't)
Jun27 Supreme Court Will Look at Wedding Cake Case
Jun27 No White House Ramadan Celebration this Year
Jun27 Ryan Draws Ironworker Opponent
Jun26 Koch Brothers Want Health Care Bill Changed
Jun26 Vote on Health Care Bill Before July 4 Looking Doubtful
Jun26 Trump Lashes Out at Obama, Clinton
Jun26 Republicans Will Campaign Against Nancy Pelosi in 2018
Jun26 It's Not Just Rusted-out Factories; It's Also Rusted-out Stores
Jun26 "I Do Not Recall" Is Not a Magic Amulet
Jun26 Are Republicans Crooks?
Jun26 Kushner Finalized Loan Shortly Before Election
Jun26 Russia Recalls Kislyak
Jun26 Democrats' Fortunes May Pick Up in November
Jun26 How to Blunt Gerrymandering
Jun25 Anthony Kennedy Is Considering Retirement
Jun25 Problems with the ACA Repeal, Part I: GOP Governors
Jun25 Problems with the ACA Repeal, Part II: The Opioid Crisis
Jun25 Problems with the ACA Repeal, Part III: Planned Parenthood
Jun25 Problems with the ACA Repeal, Part IV: Elizabeth MacDonough
Jun25 Problems with the ACA Repeal, Part V: Death
Jun25 Trump Proposes Welfare Ban for Immigrants
Jun25 FBI Is Investigating Jane and Bernie Sanders
Jun24 Last August, CIA Had Putin's Detailed Instructions for Compromising the Election
Jun24 Trump Blasts Obama for Russian Interference
Jun24 Heller Won't Support Senate Health Care Bill
Jun24 Meadows: Senate Bill Won't Pass the House
Jun24 Gowdy Will Not Investigate Russiagate
Jun24 White House Uses Tweet as Official Statement
Jun24 Pence Meets with Charles Koch
Jun24 Spicer "Explains" Off-Camera Briefings
Jun24 Trump Social-Media Guru Bankrupted by One Illness
Jun24 Carrier Employees Angry with Trump
Jun24 Johnny Depp Steps in It
Jun23 Meet the New Health Care Bill--Same as the Old Health Care Bill
Jun23 Trump: There Are No Recordings
Jun23 Karen Handel is Very Orange County
Jun23 Miami Democrats Warn Daily Kos
Jun23 Heidi Heitkamp's Love of Trump Might Be Her Secret Weapon
Jun23 Hackers Changed Voter Data
Jun23 Sanders Won't Support Wasserman Schultz's Opponent Again
Jun23 Steyer To Spend $7.5 Million to Mobilize Young Voters
Jun23 Congressmen Want to Ban Eating Dogs and Cats
Jun22 Five Takeaways from the GA-06 Special Election
Jun22 Democrats Have Actually Done Fairly Well Despite Losses in Special Elections This Year
Jun22 Some Democrats Are Calling for Pelosi's Head